Title IX came with a reverse dunk.
The percentage of females who coach women’s teams has been on a steady decline, from 90% to 40%, ever since federal legislation passed in 1972 to guarantee gender equity in athletics.
Bigger budgets and status for women’s sports also meant an increasing number of men interested in coaching in that arena.
Three female coaches seeking to change that trend spoke to nearly 400 local athletes on Monday at the National Girls & Women in Sports Day Luncheon at Earl Warren Showgrounds.
“It really comes down to women inspiring women,” said Justine Bosio, softball coach at SBCC and a former star player for Dos Pueblos High and Colorado State at Pueblo. “That’s what our mission is up here, to inspire ladies to be leaders and give back for generations to come.”
UCSB’s Serela Kay and Westmont College’s Kirsten Moore joined Bosio in Monday’s recruitment of the next generation of mentors during the annual the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table event.
Kay believes it’s already changing in her sport of women’s water polo.
“It’s been really exciting to see a good number of programs with all-female staffs,” she said. “I can remember recruiting and being the only female out there, with nothing but men around me.
“Just the opportunity with Title IX and the addition of our sport to the Olympics (in 2000) has provided opportunity for females — once they graduate and finish playing — to have that platform to teach the sport and give back.”
Moore, the women’s basketball coach at Westmont, lived through gender equity battles at the University of Oregon during the tumultuous tenure of Ducks coach Jody Runge. Moore served as a team captain for the 1997-98 team before spending three more seasons at the school as an assistant coach.
“(Runge) had numerous lawsuits actually fighting for Title IX and women’s rights, so I kind of feel like I was on the front lines of a lot of that,” Moore said. “She stood up and said, ‘Hey, if the men are staying at this nice hotel, the women should stay there … If the guys are eating at these nice restaurants, the women need to be at these nice restaurants.’
“It was a really tough fight, and I think it took a lot out of her personally.”
Runge won two Pac-10 championships and advanced to the NCAA Tournament during each of her eight seasons before resigning as Oregon’s head coach in 2001. She’s been unable to get back into collegiate coaching despite having applied for more than 50 jobs since then.
Moore, who is in her 15th season as Westmont’s head coach, has guided the Warrior women to three NAIA Final Fours and a national championship in 2013.
She said it’s important that female athletes can “see themselves in the shoes” of their coaches.
“One of the exciting things, and it’s really been in just the last year, that a lot of women are getting hired into professional men’s sports,” Moore said. “This is a huge breakthrough.
“We had the first female coach in the Super Bowl yesterday (Katie Sowers of the San Francisco 49ers). You also have a number of NBA teams hire females onto their staffs as full coaches just this season.”
One of those is former UCSB women’s basketball head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, who is now an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers. She and Moore also served on the same staff as an assistant coaches at the University of California.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to show young women that this is a possible career choice,” Moore said. “Once you see someone else doing it, you think, ‘Oh, maybe I can do that, too.’”
All three coaches participating in Monday’s round table, which was moderated by Catherine Remak, admitted that a strong family background and plenty of resolve helped them make it in the coaching world.
“We’re avocado farmers here in Santa Barbara and my work ethic probably started at a really young age,” Bosio said. “My dad coached me all the way until I got into high school.
“You have to try a lot harder than everyone else so people know that you’re playing because you deserve it, not because you’re the coach’s daughter.”
Kay, who graduated from UCLA 20 years ago, played for a challenging male coach while growing up in Maryland.
“My mom actually begged me to quit the sport many times,” she said. “But I love the sport … I had a passion for it.”
Moore’s main message to the female athletes in Monday’s audience was that it’s “OK to fail.”
“Failure is what taught me to have the drive to recognize that I can push through and get better,” she explained. “I don’t think I was the most athletic, especially for the sport that I chose.
“But I think that because I had some of those natural challenges, and maybe had to be kind of grittier to keep going, and keep figuring out, and keep finding a way to problem-solve, I was able to get to where I am today.”